The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

*Forgive me.  I’m working on Darkship Revenge and don’t want to take my head out of it -SAH*

The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness


I listen to a wide range of music, but I tend to circle around back to country for major events, and the anniversary of 9-11 is one of those. One of the songs on my playlist for the anniversary is “In America” by the Charlie Daniels Band. I happened to notice that the song was originally released in 1980, in response to a lot of the social unrest of the 1970s. Yet, I could swear that the song was written today. The call for American unity is every bit as solid and relevant now as it was then.  It set my mind to wandering about how much this perception that Americans have never been so divided is largely the same in every generation, and therefore how much of it is imaginary.

The founding of the country was fraught with bitter divides between schools of thought. There were those who thought that we should appoint a new king, those who thought that we needed a limited government, and those who thought that we should have no government at all. Looking though the published arguments from the time, it’s clear that there was a lot of bad blood. Insults were flung about in our early presidential races that couldn’t be said today in polite company. The Civil War had divides that led to bloodshed and families fighting on different sides of the war. The WW1 generation had very mixed feeling about the war until we were in it, leading to passionate debates and arguments. This has been going on forever here. Americans love to argue loudly about politics, maybe because we can, and we are a passionate people. Such conditions are never good for still waters and smooth sailing.

Even so, as every generation ages, people find shared experiences from their youth and decide that these are the markers of their generation. They comment on the idiocy of the youth. They raise families and complain about the conditions that they are raising a family in. Every generation of children tries to be radically different from their parents here, and every generation of parents finds their children trying beyond measure, and every generation of grandparents finds that the youth of “today” is so much worse than they were in yesteryear. People across the great divide of politics go to church together, attend the same schools, play on the same sports teams, discuss the same books. We’re alike and united in so many ways that it’s almost comical to see how divided we think we are.

The internet certainly makes it louder, by removing the expectations of “polite company” from the public sphere. There’s a false feeling of being invisible. Yet, the people who have these passionate and angry arguments can often sit in the same room together with little to no issues. It’s only the small number of extremes that need to exist in a sort of echo chamber. They drive away other viewpoints, and are almost universally considered horribly rude. As loud as that small number of people are, they aren’t the majority. The majority is going on about having kids and jobs, discussions about issues, bills to pay, and books to read. By and large, America isn’t actually more divided now than it was in the past; it’s just that the extremes now have a super loud megaphone. It’s harder to politely ignore them.

This is actually really great news. I felt much better after having thought it out. We all need to go back to looking at those loud jerks as if they’re kind of crazy and go on about our business. We need to continue to learn, build, and have discussions. At the end of the day, Americans mostly stick together in the face of crisis. We can always go back to fighting with each other tomorrow, when it’s safe to do so again. We’re a nation of adopted family, brother and sisters that loudly wish pain and dismemberment on each other in our internal fights right before we kick in the teeth of the outsider who dared to look askance at our little sister or brother. Perhaps that’s the very best thing about being an American.

94 thoughts on “The Imaginary Divide by outofthedarkness

  1. The big problem today isn’t so much that we’re fighting with each other loudly (as you say, we’ve always done that). It’s that one side (the left) is working very hard to make it difficult or impossible for the other side to respond to their attacks, through legal and extra-legal (but bureaucratically and governmentally supported) means.

    1. A: That’s because they’re losing.

      B: It ain’t new. Wilson was doing it a hundred years ago. I expect others have tried it as well but lack interest sufficient t delve into the matter.

      1. Agreed, but with the modern growth of the administrative state, they’re having greater success. Witness the current administration’s use of virtually every available department of government (the IRS, the DOJ, the FBI, the FEC, the DHS, etc., etc., etc.) to curtail opposition and free speech. And with the willing assistance of the mainstream media.

        1. And much much worse, it is destroying trust in government and the rule of law. Is there anyone who actually trusts the IRS to uphold their trust (to know everything about everyone’s finances and to tell nothing) or the FBI to do their jobs without fear or favor, or DHS in any way shape or form, or ANY other government agency seeing as the big ones are utterly corrupt. Even if we came out of this election with honorable, capable people in every elected office, there would still be no trust in government because of it and the attitude that government agencies are an occupying force, not our employees.

          1. Destroying trust in government is a good thing. We should never have trust in government, and unlike most countries, our government was actually designed to facilitate that distrust.

            Now trust in the rule of law is another thing, it would be great to have trust in the rule of law, but only if it was trustworthy; which it is patently not. The first step to restoring trust in the rule of law, is to restore the rule of law.

            Trust in something that is untrustworthy is immeasurably worse than distrust in something that is trustworthy.

            1. I think when most people say “distrust government” they mean “no longer believe in the rule of law”. This is bad.

              For example, people have long asked why the IRS had no whistle blowers. The standard response is “they’re all Democrats” but I don’t buy that. I think it is much worse.

              I think settling personal scores is a long running IRS practice and when Lerner decided to settle political ones each potential whistle blower knew they could be taken down on the personal score settling.

              1. I remember a tale where an IRS agent admitted to getting license numbers of high end cars he was jealous of and auditing them. Right now the tax commission of my state is rereading statute and using any excuse to rustle up income.

              2. It is hampered by bad reporting of polls. For example, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll reportedly found rampant racism in Trump supporters because they accurately interpreted

                Crime statistics show[ing] that the rate of criminality per capita, including violent criminality, is much higher among blacks than whites.*

                When one side defines racism as knowledge of politically incorrect facts and holds such knowledge as deplorable then we are pushing past the boundaries of Good Faith discussion and are on the verge of giving up the ballot box in favor of the ammo box.

                When given a choice between bending the knee or fighting back, a great many Americans will not bend their knees. Oddly, the ones who do bend their knees are not generally very adept at fighting those who elect to fight back. They rely on others to do their fighting but the quantity and quality of available myrmidons may prove a surprise to them. As the Angles learned f the Saxons, such hirelings sometimes decide to eliminate the middle man.


              3. Oh, most Americans believe in the Rule of Law. That’s why most Americans are upset that the government doesn’t. If American’s didn’t believer in the Rule of Law, they wouldn’t feel put out when there’s one set of rules for the “elites” and another for the rest of us. What Americans no longer trust is for the government to respect the Rule of Law.

                Neither did our founders who set up that government.

                The disturbing thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much insistence on our elected officials adhering to a strict as-written interpretation of the constitution. There doesn’t even seem to be much general knowledge on what the constitution even says.

                1. The disturbing thing is that there doesn’t seem to be much insistence on our elected officials adhering to a strict as-written interpretation of the constitution.

                  There seems some positive news for originalists coming out:

                  New Article on Originalism and State Constitutions
                  By Jonathan Keim — September 13, 2016

                  A new article by Jeremy M. Christiansen (forthcoming in the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy) sheds new light on a neglected aspect of the originalism debate. Whereas academic discussions of originalism typically focus on federal judicial decision-making, Christiansen argues, state judicial methodology is usually ignored. Seeking to remedy the imbalance, Christiansen reviews historical state supreme court jurisprudence and finds that a supermajority of the states have “expressly identified originalism as the primary canon of state constitutional interpretation.” Moreover, he argues, “originalism as a theory of interpretation has been consistently invoked in state courts for far longer and with much greater consistency than in federal courts.” Read the published draft here.

                  As important as the U.S. Supreme Court is, there’s no question that state supreme courts are more important than most people think. The vast majority of cases filed in America are filed in state courts (Illinois alone saw more civil cases filed in 2014 than existed in the nation’s combined federal district courts). The state supreme courts that supervise state courts thus have responsibility for – and potential influence over – the legislated and common-law rules that govern citizens’ daily lives, the operations of businesses, and the function of government.

                  Of course, tenure on a state supreme court also has a way of revealing a judge’s true judicial philosophy. Anyone can profess lip service to traditional legal methods, but because state supreme justices sit on courts of last resort for the state law cases that come before them, no one is there to make sure they do their job. Some go wobbly, but judges who faithfully apply the law in that position send a powerful message that they can be entrusted with responsibilities that affect the whole country.

                  (Hat tip: Eugene Volokh.)

                  See article for embedded links. States may be returning to their role as bulwark against an oe’erweening Federal government although only the ridiculously optimistic should count on that. NC polls showing current governor McCrory down 5 points do not encourage any pushback against the regime of the enlightened.

                2. When I was in Iraq, over and over we saw corruption in the government and the Iraqis were SURPRISED that it irritated us. They were also surprised we didn’t have to bribe every official at every stage of the game to get ANYTHING done and that we found such a notion a firing offense on the part of the official.

                  1. What makes me see red is that societies where public corruption and the need for bribes is the order of the day suffer considerable economic and social penalties. Encouraging the people in these societies to change this so that, for example, they value something more like the American or English common-law system has always struck me as an unabashedly good thing.

                    Your soc jus type considers that to be epic evil colonialism super bad.


                3. Bad phrasing on my part. Would have been better to say, “Don’t believe we are governed by the rule of law.”

                  Yes, a good number of us believe in it. I think most of the left believes in the rule of men and the failure of the mainstream right to combat that effectively has lead some on the right to embrace rule of men as well.

                  I would say Trump is that but between reading The Flight 93 Election and listening to a lot of 70s music which lead to revisiting some 70s TV I think he is more the “Convoy” candidate.

                  1. What the left, and some on the right, believe in is the end justifies the means. They will construct a straw man argument that supports some extreme case, and take the position that if you don’t convenient interpretations of the constitution, then you must support the extreme case. Jefferson’s warning that the power to do what is deemed good is also the power to do what is deemed bad is apparently lost on them.

                    1. Yep, and misdeeds done in a good cause can be justified in their world view. What they cannot seem to accept is that we have a very real disagreement on what constitutes a good cause.
                      Case in point, I’ve seen several instances where Democrats were boasting about how many times they voted in each of the last two presidential elections. Putting Mr. Obama in office was ever so much more important than obeying some silly election regulations don’t you know.

                    2. For an alternate example, consider their determination that the dangers of sexual assault in a campus “rape culture” justify suspension all rights of the accused; indeed, to be accused is to be convicted, unintended consequences be damned. After all, the accused have all been beneficiaries of “privilege” so if a few “innocents” suffer it is merely cosmic justice for the evils inflicted on generations of womyn.

        2. Given the demands of Title IX enforcers that “Common Sense” and “Reasonable Person” standards are insufficient protocols in sexual assault investigations, I fear you may be right — but I retain hope that this. like all such prior American Madnesses is but temporary.

    2. “Moooooo-oooom! He looked at me!! Make him stooo-oooop!”

      Yeah, the sibling analogy holds. ‘Mom Government’ just needs to learn to say “That’s nice, dear,” and walk away to let the squablers solve their own problems.

      1. Ah, but this Mom is paid by the number of “problems” she “solves,” which leads to an entirely different incentive structure than that for a Mom concerned only with the raising of civilized children.

        1. By “solves” I take you to mean “for certain values of” solution? And those not the ones traditionally applied to that term?

          Most of the Liberals I’ve met deride Big Pharma for marketing products that treat symptoms rather than achieve cures … which has long been the strongest argument I’ve met against the intelligence of Liberals, or (at any rate) against their self-awareness.

              1. Lol…Baen pharmacy.

                And mean more that they are slowly poisoning while telling Vic they are improving. Munchausen style

          1. Ah, but this Mom is paid by the number of “problems” she “butts into

            There, I fixed it.

            Because even when the siblings are getting along, Momma gummint won’t let well enough alone…

            1. Quite so, dear Hobbit. They must be getting along in the approved prescribed manner, after all, and that must be recorded in the correct check-boxes on the mandatory documentation.

    3. The big problem today is that we stopped the practice of dueling at the end of the Civil War/War Between the States/War of Northern Aggression (did I get all the names right?).
      There is no honor nor responsibility for the libel and hate that spews of the Vile 666 type, so there is no consequence for their boorish dialogue. (Certain people at TOR are to be included; and Posner is still a moron.)

      1. Technically dueling was illegal in most states before the ACW but was known to happen.

        1. Nods. The reason the Sandbar Fight happened on the Vidalia Sandbar was that there was a question of who, if anyone held jurisdiction over it, and neither party would likely be prosecuted.

        1. I’ve long leaned toward “War of Southern Secession” as the most neutral term. It accurately states the precipitating act and general bone of contention without intruding inconvenient details.

        2. Or the “Union/Confederate conflict”.

          So, a definition question. Is the difference between a revolutionary and a civil war really anything more than whether the revolution is successful or not? I mean, I would normally define a revolutionary war as an attempt to overthrow the government, while retaining the country whole. While a civil war was an attempt to split off part of the country, not to overthrow the government in power so much as remove a portion of the country from under that power. But our American Revolution never attempted to overthrow the British government, by the definition I just wrote, it was actually a civil war, not a revolutionary one.

          1. The English Civil War was a revolutionary war. But undoubtedly a civil war all the same. I think the dividing line ought to be between revolution and secession, really.

            (Meaning that the American Revolution should properly be called the War of Independence and not a revolution at all. I have no idea how much damage has been done by conflating the American Revolution with your various wars to overthrow the ruler and create some brand new shiny thing when you rule in his stead, but my guess is a lot.)

              1. Yeah, “fun war” is an oxymoron so plain that no one’s even attempted to use it. But at least secession has a track record of turning out to be better than the original state of affairs a significant percentage of the time. Revolution, not so much.

                1. Wellllll … there was the War of Invasion by the Duchy of Grand Fenwick which was largely declared a fun, if fictional, war.

                  Then there’s this, from the history of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team [composed almost entirely of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry] and their experience in WWII:

                  Champagne Campaign
                  Following the tough battle through the Vosges Mountains, the 442nd was sent to the Maritime Alps and the French Riviera. It was a walk in the park compared to what they had experienced in October. Little to no action occurred in the next four months as they rested.[citation needed] The 442nd guarded and patrolled a twelve to fourteen-mile front line segment of French-Italian border. This part of the 442nd’s journey gained the name “Champagne Campaign” because of the available wine, women, and merry times. The 442nd experienced additional losses as patrols sometimes ran into enemy patrols, or sometimes soldiers stepped on enemy and allied land mines. Occasionally, soldiers of the 442nd captured spies and saboteurs.

      2. I have discovered a solution for the Vile Ones. After having engaged them in discourse and found them doubleplus ungood, I now ignore them completely.

        I feel that this is a model that will be very successful if applied to WorldCon in general. Whenever they raise their heads, crush them. Otherwise, ignore their bleatings as the glossolalia of diseased minds.

  2. The issue I keep finding, though, is that the space where ignoring politics is allowable keeps shrinking. Have seen dozens of friendships of others broken because of politics. And then sneering that it’s the only valid option for disagreeing with liberals

    1. I confess that the only reason the recent actions by the NCAA to pull events from NC because of the state’s bathroom laws has not induced me to forswear ever paying attention to another NCAA event is that you can’t quit what you don’t do.

        1. Basketball, football, baseball, soccer … anything on which they can make money by limiting the “pay” of college athletes.

          I see that the ACC has similarly pulled “neutral site” tournaments from the state. See: The Left is Weaponizing Sports (Update)

          I expect a legislative investigation of the NCAA monopoly and exploitation of college athletes but doubt it will amount to anything under an Obama or Hillary presidency, nor necessarily under Trump.

  3. People across the great divide of politics go to church together, attend the same schools, play on the same sports teams, discuss the same books.

    I’m going to have to disagree on the first and the last and that’s part of the problem. Except maybe for Catholics and the Orthodox there is a political sorting by demonination. The various Presbyterians, to cite the ones I know best, are very different politically with the PCUSA being the liberal church, the PCA very evangelical right, and the Cumberlanders being more old conservatives. The Episcopal have gone from sorting by parish to conservative parishes starting to look to Anglican Primates in Africa for their heirarchy.

    As for same books, see Hugos versus Dragons.

    Both are signs, IMHO, that we are closer to 1860 than 1912 in terms of disagreement.

    1. I’ve got to agree with you, although I suspect that with the Orthodox there may be some sorting by Orthodox hierarchies. I think the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) may be generally more leftist than the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and the Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Antiochian, etc., probably have their own positions in the spectrum. Having said that, you can generally find all political views found in the general area within an Orthodox parish. They just aren’t used to inform the theology, as the Orthodox church is pretty adamant about that. It may also be that the Orthodox church isn’t so populous in the US so people don’t have the opportunity to segregate themselves into politically-homogenous parishes.

      1. Having only experience with ROCOR (where I was very uncomfortable for ethnic reasons, a common complaint with many Orthodox parishes) and Antiochian I don’t know enough to say ya or nay.

        That said, the very strict separation of theology from politics means I know about zero about the politics of my few parishiners. That is also one of the things I love about the Church, that it is about faith.

        I wonder if it is also why the Orthodox are growing in the US.

        1. Well, come on down and visit our ROCOR parish! We’re (I think) majority converts, so the main ethnicity is probably Redneck. 🙂 Seriously, anytime you’d like to visit, let me know and you’ll be welcome.

    2. They don’t go to the same schools, either; conservative kids are homeschooled, private / religious schooled, or they go to a public school where they either conform or are harassed. By both teachers and students.

    3. All I’m going to add to this is that the Left has been saying for decades that they consider us as fit for execution or enslavement. And I’ve learned from history that gauzy exhortations of the “Can’t we all just get along” sort fail utterly in the face of someone determined to impose their will and with the capability to try.

      1. Record gun sales for the last eight years. Absurd popularity of the ridiculous poodle shooter AR-15. It gives “can’t we all just get along?” a whole new dimension, doesn’t it?

        1. Why ridiculous poodle shooter? I consider the AR-15 the only logical choice: if you are brought up as actual unorganized militia you can use the same supply sources as the regulars. If you self-organized as an irregular insurgent you can scavange ammo off the regular army units you defeat.

          1. Unfortunately, I agree with you. Practically the considerations you just pointed out make them a good choice. Even if the gun itself is an overpriced, jamming, high maintenance, p… [insert long string of obscenities of your choice].
            Also the ridiculous caliber (which I believe is what the poodle shooter description is referencing) is vastly improved by using quality expanding bullets, which of course you will have to supply yourself rather than scavenging.

    4. The United Methodists seem to be getting congregational, in that they are sorting themselves into “will follow dumb ideas from General Conference because the bishop says to do it” and “congregation refuses to follow dumb ideas and preacher pretends not to notice.”

      The minister at my current place of worship is even handed about being annoyed with all politicians and parties, which seems to be something everyone can agree on. Well, that and that getting donuts with red frosting on them for the Children’s Department was a very, very, dreadfully bad idea.

    5. There’s a United Church of Canada congregation in Toronto that has an avowed atheist as minister. A recent decision by the church council found that an atheist who refuses to perform communion etc. might not be suitable for a United Church minister.

      A -split- decision, mind you.

          1. Several news sources have wittered about “falling church attendance.” That’s the sort of thing that causes it.

            Several of my friends are devout, but no longer attend church. Some of them are just staying home, others are attending informal Bible meetings.

            1. The wife is a very devout Catholic (me much less), but we have not attended a mass in over 2 years because of the decidedly leftist tilt the church went on with the new pope and the lack of balls among the hierarchy in not excommunicating pro-abortion politicians who loudly proclaim their Catholicism at every election (Dicky Durbin I’m looking at you!!!)

        1. I remember reading about an Episcopalian priest who considered herself a Muslim. If church doesn’t require its clerics to be believing, practicing members of the faith, I’d say that’s a good sign that said church is already dead, and the bureaucracy is just trying to prop up the corpse.

          1. In the case of that woman, I heard that her superiors in the church had a “few words with her”.

        2. It’s a really nice sinecure, and a great place to gas off about your atheistic beliefs.

          The thing I find “interesting” is that nearly half the church council was okay with it.

          1. The thing I find “interesting” is that nearly half the church council was okay with it.

            They don’t want to be judgmental about Faith and this lets them tout their open-mindedness and lecture others about tolerance.

          2. I would guess that is because anybody who was actually, a believer, had long since left the church for more faithful climes.

    6. It goes deeper. The American Revolution saw people leave churches and entire churches leaving British associations because of political differences. The American Civil War saw similar divides before and after. And now we’re starting to see the same thing.

      Coincidentally, my father this weekend said to me that I’m young, so I don’t know that it’s never been this bad (in his lifetime). Aside from the novelty of being called young, it’s a sobering observation.

      1. Very true. The current Presbyterian Church USA was north and southern churches well into my lifetime and only merged back in the 70s or 80s.

    7. In general I think that we have a lot less in common than we used to. You’re partially right on the churches, but even more than dividing into liberal and conservative churches, we’re dividing into serious believers and those who see no reason to continue going to church; there’s no social pressure to attend, so that’s not really a place where heterodox minds will meet.

      Similar stuff is going on in the rest of the culture. Many social groups are online, where people can sort themselves by group; there’s less meeting up at the local bowling alley and just accepting that many of those in your league will have different beliefs, so keep the religion and politics talk to yourself. Liberals and conservatives are getting their news from different sources that in many cases disagree even about what constitutes “news.” As you say, we read different books and soon may start watching different movies and TV shows. For now, sports are still a place for some common ground, but the NFL and NCAA are doing everything they can to kill that.

      I know that Americans have always been seriously divided over politics, but in earlier eras, it feels like we had more to bring us together. Now, it’s not just the politics but the common culture that appears to be coming apart. In some ways that’s good (there’s a lot more freedom now, and a lot more opportunities for us odds to find places where we’re comfortable), but I’m worried about the long term effects.

  4. Gauzy exhortations of the “Can’t we all just get along” sort, when combined with the “Be reasonable, do it our way you basket of deplorables” indicate a less than good faith standard for “getting along.”

    Refer to recent reporting contrasts between T.E.A. Party and Occupy Wall Street rallies.

  5. “every generation of grandparents finds that the youth of “today” is so much worse than they were in yesteryear.”

    I dunno, I’m twenty-seven, and I have to say that my generation is objectively worse than those preceding. I’d have to go back as far as the Silents before hitting a generation I could call “good,” character-wise.

    (I will say, mind, that teenagers today seem a good deal nicer than they were when I was one. But maybe that’s just because of the mixed-company factor.)

    1. I remember a quote attributed to Tacitus about the corruption of Roman youth.

      For some reason, no one really has a good rejoinder when I point out the fate of Rome.

      1. Tacitus was at least at a better spot in the history of civilization than Socrates and Cicero, who are the ones I always see getting trotted out for these occasions, never mind that they got straight-up killed by the tyranny of ensuing generations.

        It’s like the people who spout these things think about it no further than “This is a famous person who lived a long time ago, and the world hasn’t ended yet. Therefore, they were wrong about things changing for the worse.” Of course even the most hideous events in history have at least stopped short of destroying the world, but dangit, we’re refuting alarmism here!

      2. Rome died to upper class power politics, not kids who don’t pull up their pants.

        Counter Rejoinder: Julius Caesar got into bloody power politics as one of those kids that don’t pull up their pants. (Strictly speaking, he belted his clothing loosely, which was cognate for that cohort of youth.)

        Of course I think the Republic was dead by Sulla’s time anyway.

        1. The problems with the consulate – namely, you held it for two years and had to fund your tenure entirely out of pocket – were probably the biggest factor. After they’d conquered enough territory that these limitations became totally infeasible.

          But Rome wasn’t half the representative republic that ours is. The people actually grabbing at power were the chief concern, not the voters. So, insolent kids, as a whole, in America… yeah, insolence is likely to fix things that aren’t broke, and call breaking fixing. When said insolence is also totally uneducated over a succession of generations as to what the establishment is, how the establishment or even the assumed establishment came to believe what it does, what their own principles are, the axioms of history or human nature or formal logic… well, that’s how you wind up with this election.

    2. Here is the one factor that is genuinely different today:

      For the first time in history, around half (more in some populations) of all American children grow up fatherless; which is to say, with their mothers married to the government.

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